The Customer Experience & Transcending the Online / Offline Barriers

We'll discuss how we see the physical and digital worlds should tie in together for brands.

By Katia Barakat

About 6 min read . Nov 15, 2021Strategy & Consultancy

A lot of talk has been happening around how to unify the online and offline customer experience. Even Facebook, before its Meta rebrand, discussed opening physical stores to get people hyped about its non-physical metaverse. Clearly, however you spin it, creating a frictionless shopping experience has become the holy grail of customer-centricity. 

The simple way to look at it? 

Let’s start from the customer’s point of view. 

When dealing with a brand (and what we marketers like to call the brand universe), the client doesn’t see things like “omnichannel strategy” or “online / offline strategy”, etc. The client merely engages with the brand universe with a set of emotions like excitement about new drops, anticipation of a sale, comfort and ease of discovering product specs, exchanging items, etc. And at the end of their experience with the brand, they are either left very happy, satisfied or dissatisfied to certain degrees. So basically, the easier it is to navigate and engage with the brand universe, the happier the customer. 

After all, isn’t this what marketers’ years of hard work leads up to, an emotional attachment to the brand that keeps clients coming back and wanting more? 

So why spoil it all by having (and maintaining) some kind of divisiveness in the brand universe? 

Keep it simple people:


In light of this, why is it that in many instances brick & mortar stores and online stores are still treated like separate entities, each working in a silo, and sometimes even (spoiler alert!) … competing against each other? In today’s world and after the COVID-19 hard press on the “fast-forward” button to digital transformation, customers cannot be tugged and pulled between two parallel experiences under ONE brand. 

Here are some examples of brand experiences gone wrong due to the lack of unity between online and offline:

   1. You purchased something online only to find out that it is out of stock (imagine or re-imagine the exhilaration of completing the purchase which is then met with the emotional blow of finding out that you are actually NOT the proud owner of this oh-so-wanted item. Burrrn!)
   2.You purchased something online and couldn’t return it in-store (“Sorry, can you repeat that please?”)
   3.You discovered a new product online only to find out that the physical store doesn’t carry the same inventory* (“Ok now I’m really confused…”)
   *In such cases, it’s important to market create an “online exclusive” strategy rather than act as two entities with two separate inventories. . 

Yes, we’re obviously exaggerating a little, but we really want to drive this point across: It’s a goldmine for you to keep your customers happily roaming around your brand’s ecosystem. Don’t throw them a curveball if you can help it! 

Convinced? Alright then, let’s do this, lets eliminate the distinction between the physical and digital worlds, at least from your clients’ point of view. 

How can you as a brand embrace technology that helps you centralize and streamline the customer journey and experience? 

   1. Try to avoid siloed data; don’t have a tool for each of your channels, this will become a data nightmare. Centralize your data collection into one primary tool (obviously one that has a strong integration capability that avoids you losing precious data previously collected).
   2. Create online campaigns to promote your physical stores and alternatively, create in-store campaigns to promote your online store – let there be a seamless flow between the two and let your brand really embrace the holistic brand experience.    
      a. For example, you can include iPads in your store where clients can browse your online store, check product reviews, etc. Clients navigate without forethought across channels, letting them embrace this while in your shop is a great way to unify the experience.
      b. Or let your customer book merchandise online to view in a shop nearby (because there is still something to be said about touching and seeing an item live). 

A unified approach and a more centralized framework will give you, the retailer, the opportunity to empower both yourself and your customer. By merging online and offline data, you will gain a better understanding of which touchpoints are crucial to the customer journey and more importantly of where you can do better! We know it’s not easy – otherwise everyone would be doing it – but let’s just say it will be worth your while. 

Are  you feeling overwhelmed with managing the marketing of your online and offline retail shops? Get in touch and let’s chat! 

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